PRESIDENT Duterte will visit popular tourist destinations in the Visayas either by the end of the month or early Match as part of government’s efforts to promote domestic tourism amid health concerns from the coronavirus disease (COVID-19), Tourism Undersecretary Art Boncato said yesterday.
The Department of Tourism is coordinating with the Office of the President as to exactly when and where the visits will be, he said.
Boncato said among the places being considered are Boracay in Aklan, Cebu, and Bohol but “the intention really is to visit as many destinations as possible.”
“We are mapping something either end of February, early March. So, that is the timing that we are looking at, coordinating with the Office of the President,” he said.
He said the aim is to showcase the sites and attractions that are very popular with both domestic and foreign travelers.
Asked if the President will go swimming while in Boracay – which he once described as a cesspool before he ordered its temporary closure to undergo rehabilitation — Boncato said he can recommend it but “I cannot answer that question; it’s below my pay grade.”
Chief Presidential Legal Counsel Salvador Panelo, concurrent presidential spokesman, said the President will just visit the tourist destinations, “make his presence felt, to say hello,” and encourage people to visit.
He said the President “is always a magnet” and attracts people wherever he goes.
Boncato said local carriers, tour operators, and hotels owners and operators have agreed to help boost domestic tourism by offering lower rates and travel packages.
The President last week met with tourism industry stakeholders and discussed with them the impact of the coronavirus in the country.
The Department of Tourism estimated some P42.9 billion in foregone revenue up to April this year due to COVID-19 scare.
Duterte came out with a video message over the weekend, in which he urged Filipinos to travel with him around the country and assured tourists of their safety despite the COVID-19 scare.
Boncato assured the public that big gatherings and events may still proceed despite the COVID-19 scare, “for as long as long precautionary measures are in place and all protocols that are needed to be in place are in place.”
Reports circulating on social media said the Department of Health has issued a statement against the holding of big events and gatherings. The DOH has denied issuing such statement.